Recently more and more actors known for their comedic roles, but sooner or later start to take on more serious and dramatic performances. Oddly enough, they end up blowing audiences away with their sudden change. So much so that there are portrayals so raw and out of the norm, they completely change the course of these actors’ careers. Many have even led to award nominations from the Golden Globes and Academy Awards. Which is what we will be taking a look at today, those actors and actresses that have made the switch from comedy to drama and created one of the most memorable performances in film.
Bouncing his career back and forth between comedy and drama, Stiller has been most notable for his comedic roles in film. However, many people don’t realize that his first theatrical role came in Steven Spielberg’s war drama Empire of the Sun. Appearing in a few minor roles such as Happy Gilmore and Heavyweights, he didn’t finally broke through Hollywood with his first lead role in 1998’s There’s Something About Mary. Stiller finally solidified himself as a comedic actor in 2001’s Zoolander, creating a character that would become a staple to the actor. Between Zoolander and 2013, Ben appeared in only comedic films such as Madagascar, Night at the Museum and Tropic Thunder. Until finally proving himself as a dramatic actor in The Secret Life of Walter and continuing his dramatic streak directing Escape from Dannemora.
Stone’s first major role came alongside Jonah Hill and Michael Cera in 2007’s Superbad, and went on to take minor roles in The House Bunny and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Then in 2009 she was given another major role with Zombieland, and returning for her first lead performance in 2010’s Easy A. She began her journey into more dramatic roles with The Help and The Amazing Spider-Man, but it wasn’t until her role in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) where she showed everyone the potential of her acting range and received her first Oscar nomination. She went on to win her first Oscar Win for Best Actress in 2017’s La La Land. Furthering her career gaining another nomination for her role in The Favourite.
Sacha Baron Cohen
Most known for creating characters and changing his persona for comedy, beginning with his character Ali G in 1999. Cohen finally appeared in his breakthrough performance as Jean Girard alongside Will Farrell in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Then Cohen became the infamous Borat, crafting one of the funniest characters in the 2000’s. Shortly after through, Cohen showed off not just his dramatic skills but also his musical prowess with Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Eventually coming back to his comedy roots with 2009’s Bruno, not quite landing the way Borat did but still a solid role. Then jumping back into a dramatic musical with Les Miserables. Recently Cohen has pulled off both a serious role in The Trial of the Chicago 7, then returning to Borat once again with a sequel.
McCarthy stared in many minor roles between 1999 and 2011 before finally staring in her first role that not only made her a household name but garnered her first Oscar nominations in the film Bridesmaids. Becoming one of the funniest actresses in Hollywood, she continued to star in lead roles with The Heat, Tammy and Spy. Unfortunately in her role in 2016 began the decline in her comedic performance with The Boss, Ghostbusters and The Happytime Murders. Just when we thought we would see the end of McCarthy, she proved herself as a serious actor with her role in Can You Ever Forgive Me? when she managed to gain yet anouther Oscar nomination.
Carrey dominated the 1990’s specifically 1994 when he starred in three of the biggest comedies of the 90’s. Staring in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb & Dumber all in the same year. Then showing up in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and as the Riddler in Batman Forever in 1995. Carrey continued to appear in comedy roles until 2004 when he received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And just when you thought Carrey couldn’t carry his range any further, he appears in Joel Schumacher’s crime thriller The Number 23. Appearing in film for almost 40 years, Carrey has proved his level of talent even to this day.
Having made his statement in Hollywood with his first big role in 1980’s Caddyshack, Murray continued to fire off his career with Stripes, Tootsie and of course the pop culture phenomenon Ghostbusters. In the same decade, Murray appeared in the war drama The Razor’s Edge. Bill continued to appear in comedies such as What About Bob?, Groundhog’s Day and Kingpin before showing up in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation starring alongside Scarlett Johannson and gained his first Oscar nomination. While he hasn’t given another Oscar worthy performance, he has still appeared in more dramatic roles with Passion Play and The Jungle Book.
Similar to Emma Stone, Jonah Hill first appeared as the lead in the film Superbad. Sky rocketing his career, he continued to take on comedic roles until 2011 when he starred alongside Brad Pitt in Moneyball and went on to receive his first Oscar nomination. Hill’s career went nowhere but up by starring in 21 Jump Street, The Watch and This Is the End before his comedic skills got him another nomination for The Wolf of Wall Street. However, Hill has also given his talents in major voice acting roles with The Lego Movie, How to Train Your Dragon and Sausage Party. He has continued his dramatic career through directing with his first feature film Mid90’s, proving his wide array of talent even further.
Kicking off his career in Saturday Night Live, Sandler did not land his first lead role until 1995 when he starred in Billy Madison. From there he continued to dominate the late 1990’s with big hits like Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy and Big Daddy. Sandler kicked off the 2000’s with a taste of his acting range in Punch Drunk Love, before fully investing back into comedy with hits like Mr. Deeds, Anger Management, 50 First Dates and The Longest Yard. However, during the late 2000’s and late 2010’s Sandlers quality of film began to decline. With a few hits here and there, most notably Grown Ups and Hotel Transylvania. It was finally in 2019 when Sandler stunned everyone with his incredible performance in the anxiety riddled drama Uncut Gems.
Starring in many smaller roles in the early 2000’s, it wasn’t until 2005 when Carell made his presence known in Hollywood as the next comedic genius. Staring in The 40-Year Old Virgin and then kicking off one of the greatest television shows in history with The Office. Between 2005 and 2011, Carell dominated television networks as Michael Scott while also starring in major films such as Despicable Me, Get Smart and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Carell finally started to show off his more serious side in 2013 with The Way Way Back before blowing us all way with his Academy Award nominated performance in Foxcatcher, playing as the real life sociopathic wrestling coach Jean DuPont.
While the great Robin Williams has mastered both the comedic and dramatic side of Hollywood, he isn’t defined in either categories. More than just an actor, Williams is a master of his craft. Receiving his first Oscar nomination early in his career with 1987’s Good Morning, Vietnam, he continued his nominations in 89 and 91 with Dead Poets Society and The Fisher King. Williams took a step back from dramas to appear in family friendly films such as Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire and Jumanji. The finally in 1997, won his first Academy Award for his role as Sean in Good Will Hunting. After his win he could do no wrong, starring in various live-action and animated films. Robin Williams has solidified himself as one of the greatest actors of his generation in both comedy and dramatic performances.